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Eastern Gateway Community College cuts 28 jobs as part of its recovery plan

STEUBENVILLE — Grappling with declining enrollments and revenues stemming from a long-running student aid funding dispute with the U.S. Department of Education, Eastern Gateway Community College trustees on Thursday announced they’ve eliminated 28 jobs as part of the school’s recovery plan.

The reductions in force — 10 hourly, the remaining 18 staff members — were issued Jan. 8, spokesman Dennis Willard said. The cuts are spread across campuses in both Steubenville and Youngstown.

“One of the reasons we sent the information out today was there was some confusion about whether the 28 staff reductions were completed or (coming) in the future,” Willard said. “Those are done, they were done as of Jan. 8.”

The reductions are projected to shave roughly $1.3 million from the college’s bottom line in 2024.

Willard said at this point, EGCC’s board is “not looking at any further staff reductions.”

“We’re doing everything we can to protect faculty and staff jobs, and we always put students first,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to continue to serve students and our communities in northeastern Ohio. Eastern Gateway has been part of the Ohio Valley and, in recent years, Mahoning Valley for 60 years — our goal is to make sure we’re here for the next 60 years.”

EGCC ran afoul of the U.S. Department of Education during a financial aid compliance review, which culminated with DOE issuing a cease-and-desist letter in July 2022 ordering the school to pause its free college benefit program “and not disburse Pell grant funds to any new students enrolling in (it) until the program is redesigned” to charge full tuition and fees to non-Pell eligible students. A month later EGCC found itself on DOE’s Heightened Cash Monitoring Status 2 list, changing the way the school disburses Title IV funds to students. Instead of the normal advanced-pay method, EGCC now must pay out of pocket and request reimbursement.

The college subsequently filed suit in federal court, winning an injunction to block DOE from enforcing its order. After months of litigation, the college announced last year it was dismissing the suit while they negotiated a settlement with DOE.

Pell grant fund reimbursements have been delayed, however, with DOE personnel scrutinizing each request for reimbursement to verify compliance. College personnel “struggled” with clean submissions, resulting in only partial payments “and creating a cash-flow issue.”

The college’s seven-page recovery plan details the impact the controversy has had on finances and enrollment:

• Operating revenues for the 2023 fiscal year were down $5.5 million, or 33.1%, from the year before.

• Nonoperating revenues decreased by $28.6 million, or 38.1%, “primarily due to the HCM2 process identifying ineligible (unreimbursable) Pell students.”

• Enrollment was roughly 15,000 for the fall semester and roughly 9,000 for the spring semester, which opened Jan. 15 — far less than the 45,000 on the books prior to termination of the Free College Benefit program.

With the declining student population, “We’re taking steps to make sure staffing levels, our faculty, is in line with our enrollment.”

“We believe this is all manageable, that’s why we’re working … to resolve (it),” Willard added. “We’re putting a plan in place we think will bring us to financial stability while we’re making adjustments as enrollments decline.”

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